Alabama Football breakout watch: Byron Young

Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama football fans yearn every offseason for a dominant interior defensive lineman to burst onto the scene. Guys like Quinnen Williams, Daron Payne, and Jonathan Allen can singlehandedly disrupt an offense and make the life much easier on the rest of the defense. To be effective in the middle of the defense requires a rare combination of powerlifter-type strength, refined technique, and cat-like quickness.

Alabama football hasn’t featured that first-round caliber defensive tackle since Quinnen Williams went no. 3 overall in the 2019 NFL draft.

However, it has had a pair of defensive tackles reach the next tier in the past two years. Both Christian Barmore and Phidarian Mathis were chosen in the second round of the 2021 and 2022 drafts, respectively. Barmore’s 2020 season and Mathis’ 2021 season had a lot of similarities. Both improved as the season went on and became unrelenting forces in the middle of the Alabama defensive line by November. These two didn’t have the raw talent or explosiveness of a Jonathan Allen. However, sheer strength and determination, in conjunction with some experience and savvy, made them nearly unblockable at times.

I think Alabama fans will have to wait at least another year to see another top ten pick on the defensive line. The good news is, the Tide defense doesn’t necessarily need one, as it has the nation’s best pass rushing tandem on the edge. At defensive tackle, Alabama football has another veteran leader that could potentially achieve the level of production Phil Mathis reached last season.

Alabama Football: Last go-around for Young

Senior Byron Young has been a significant contributor in each of his first three seasons, totaling 82 tackles in 32 games. His experience will be very valuable this season, and he has shown the most potential of the three returning seniors on the defensive line. His career trajectory is very similar to that of Mathis, and he is primed for a big-time season.

Some fans may scoff at Young’s 3.5 career sacks, a number that looks inconsequential at first glance. Keep in mind that prior to last season, Phil Mathis had amassed only 1.5 career sacks in the same number of games before finishing second on the team with 9.0 sacks in 2021.

Byron Young has also nearly tripled Phil Mathis in career tackles for loss (14.5 to 5.5) entering their senior seasons. Since 2020, he has been far more disruptive than he has gotten credit for. In 2021, he was easily Alabama’s second best interior defensive lineman behind Mathis.

As the vocal leader of the group this season, his snaps will increase and I expect his production to explode. He will spearhead what should be one of the top run defenses in the country, and should feast as a pass rusher. Young will be the beneficiary of many one-on-one matchups thanks to Will Anderson Jr. and Dallas Turner.

Alabama Football: Other breakout candidates

This time last year, my eyes were on Tim Smith and he did not have the dominant year I anticipated. Smith is still on the roster with another year of experience under his belt, so it may only be a matter of time for the big Floridian who has flashed immense potential.

Most of the 2022 offseason buzz from the fan base has surrounded guys like Jamil Burroughs and true freshman Jaheim Oatis. I would love to see Burroughs or Oatis insert themselves into the rotation and be game-changers, but Young has been overlooked.

dark. Next. Few teams have the talent to win it all

Expect Byron Young to emerge as a major component of a fearsome defense for Alabama football in 2022.